CBC hosts Census 2020 call to actionBy Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / August 6, 2020
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People can participate in the census one of three ways – by telephone at (844) 330-2020, online at www.2020census.gov or by mail.The Congressional Black Caucus hosted a virtual webinar on Tuesday, August 4 to educate and mobilize communities of color around participation in the 2020 Census.
With 45 days left until the September 30 deadline, the virtual town hall was a call to action by the caucus to encourage participation.
“The response number in the African American community is low,” said CBC Chair, Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37). “If we are not counted, the money doesn’t stay in Washington, it goes somewhere else.”
Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) laid out the historical backdrop to the undercounting of the African American community dating back to 1787. During the writing of the U.S. Constitution, delegates debated over the number of seats in the House of Representatives. In 1790, a compromise between the northern and southern states resulted in a decision for enslaved Africans to be counted as three-fifths of a person for Congressional representation and taxation. Although the 14th Amendment nullified that law, Johnson and other CBC members say tactics to undercount African Americans still happen today.
“That continues all the way to this day. The Trump administration is trying to do everything they can to undercount the Black community. We are predisposed to not want people to come to our homes and get in our business, or to be counted and that is counting against us,” said Johnson. “In order to stop that from happening we need to answer to the census.”
Every decade the U.S. Constitution requires a census count of every resident in every household. Data gathered by the census is used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state receives, as well as the drawing of federal, state, and local government legislative boundaries. Census data is also used to direct billions in federal dollars to states and local communities that impact things like health care services, housing, schools, and economic development.
Rep. Steven Horsford (NV-04) shared that he became Nevada’s first African American congressman because of the 2010 Census that revealed the state’s changing demographics.
“The representation available to people in Nevada is a direct result of a robust and accurate census count. The 2020 Census is an opportunity to provide our government with the data it needs to divvy up congressional representation and allocate billions of dollars of federal funding every year for things that are so important to our community,” said Horsford.
U.S. President Donald Trump issued a presidential memorandum on July 21, seeking to exclude non-citizens from being counted in the census. Panelist Nana Gyamfi with Black Alliance for Just Immigration, (BAJI) noted that Trump’s order continues to push the storied legacy of fear and mistrust of government in Black communities.
“You are not zero- fifths of a person, you are five-fifths of a person,” said Gyamfi, who also made a plea to Black immigrants and descendants to participate in the 2020 Census.
“Black immigrants are part of Black America and face the same kind of anti-Blackness that multi-generational African Americans face,” she added.
A report released by the National Urban League, The State of the 2020 Census, states that “approximately 3.7 million African Americans were entirely missed (omitted) in the 2010 Census.” Currently 25 percent of households residing in predominantly Black areas are in the bottom 20 percent of response rates (below 50 percent). An estimated 3.7 million Black people were not counted in the 2010 Census.
Instead of ‘undercounted,’ Marilyn Stephens, Assistant Regional Census Manager for the 2020 Census for the Atlanta Region, said a better term is ‘underreported.’ Less than two-thirds of U.S. households have completed the Census, according to a report released by the Census on August 3. Of 93 million households, “nearly 63 percent of all households in the nation” have responded to the 2020 Census.
#BlackAmericaCounts, a nationwide census campaign, will send out 10 million texts on August 8 to inform people about the census. People can participate in the census one of three ways – by telephone at (844) 330-2020, online at www.2020census.gov or by mail.
In order to help efforts to count underrepresented communities, The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation has collaborated with Fair Count, Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to partnering with hard-to-count communities to achieve a fair and accurate count.
Stacey Abrams, former candidate for Governor of Georgia and founder of Fair Count, Inc. closed the discussion by reminding webinar attendees the importance of representation in government.
“The reason they (lawmakers) feel comfortable in ignoring our cries for change is because the Congress that they drew in 2011, is a Congress that does not necessarily have to see us. We’ve got some bright spots and we hold power, but we do not hold power that is commensurate with our presence in this country and that can only happen if we are counted in the 2020 Census,” said Abrams.
“We can take back our power and amplify that power, or we can be silent and let them take another decade from us.”